The design art and building science of being “green” did not come naturally to the Multiple Listing Service.
It took some green people.
The Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors is expanding its MLS forms, adding fields that will help buyers zero in on green features that were relegated to the “remarks” section before, making them unsearchable.
With the changes now rolling out, buyers can compare homes by — among other things — energy certifications and Home Energy Rating Scale scores, which Realtor Sarah Bytyqi likened to the miles-per-gallon stickers plastered on the windows of new cars.
“It's the only true way a consumer can identify how efficient or how green a property is from one property to another. It's comparing apples to apples,” said Bytyqi, founder and managing broker at Verbode, an Oklahoma City real estate firm specializing in green and energy-efficient properties.
She also heads up the Realtors association's Green Resource Council, which helped spearhead the MLS changes. The modifications to the MLS are the key to greening Oklahoma City's housing scene, said Michelle Foy, a Realtor with Verbode, since MLS listings can be searched only by field. Foy helped draw up a list of changes last spring, consulting with homebuilders and energy auditors to tweak it.
“So we just started kind of pushing forward, trying to get some changes made slowly,” Foy said.
The first changes rolled out in July with others going online this month.
The association voted to form the council in 2009, prompted by the increasing buzz over green building and green renovating, Bytyqi said. She volunteered to lead the group from the beginning.
“I personally live a pretty green life — support ideals of sustainability and organic,” she said. “I'm pretty organic. I'm a vegetarian. You know, it just kind of fit with my personal lifestyle.”
It started with four people. “And we realized this was a much broader topic than ourselves,” she said. “So I started recruiting other agents that I knew had interest in the green field.” The council has grown to 17 members, the maximum allowed for association committees.
The idea of adding fields to the MLS forms might seem like a simple one, but the implications go far beyond tweaking a search engine. The “roof” field, for example, will allow up to two selections, one of them steel.
Steel lies at the core of the roof at Chris Wright's Old World-style home on NW 55 — it's stone-wrapped steel, technically. Elliott Roofing, where Wright works in estimating and sales, has been installing stone-wrapped roofs for about 10 years. It looks like Old World tile to the naked eye, but there's a major difference.
“It's at least a 50-year roof,” Wright said, able to withstand hurricane-force winds unlike the previous crop of wooden shake shingles that fell victim to a 2010 hailstorm. Those shingles remain underneath, though, acting as a layer of insulation.
“The manufacturer suggested it,” he said.
The MLS changes also are a matter of property values. Builders might spend the extra money to put in greener features, said council affiliate member Trey Parsons, but they haven't been able to get that back in value added to the house.
“The appraisers, as a community nationwide, are behind on all that, appraising for green features and energy-efficient features in a home,” said Parsons, who owns Enersolve, an Oklahoma City energy efficiency company that works extensively with builders.
Appraisers draw their figures by comparing a house with other homes in the area with similar features, Parsons said. Without listings in the MLS and without a paper trail for the public to follow, the public had no way to find and compare green features among home listings.
“Main thing I was interested in is working for these builders and helping the appraisers, the whole community as a whole — it's kind of good for everybody — to get over this hump, to start laying that paper trail,” Parsons said.
Part of the effort means noting things on the MLS that might not be evident in a house.
“A lot of times green features are hard to recognize because they're behind the walls,” Bytyqi said. “You can't see them.”
And that may be true at the Brownstones at Maywood Park, townhomes at NE 3 and Oklahoma Avenue near downtown Oklahoma City, where the view out the windows is more likely to draw the eye than the hall closet that houses a geothermal unit. Yet the unit is one of the big selling point for buyers looking downtown, many of whom don't live in Oklahoma City full time.
“So they are looking for a smaller energy footprint,” said Realtor Peter Levinson of Keller Williams Realty in Edmond. The Brownstones range from 2½ floors to four, all featuring geothermal technology.
Among MLS changes: Both heating and cooling fields now have a “geothermal” option. And “infill” has been added to lot description, referring to properties such as the Brownstones built on vacant space within a built-up area.
Bytyqi said education is an important part of the council's mission as the green concept gains a foothold with the public.
“There's lots and lots and lots of information out there, and it changes so rapidly,” she said.
The council plans to reach out through www.
The council has concentrated on the metro area, but its work could reach beyond, Bytyqi said.
“Anyone that's in Oklahoma will benefit from our committee's work, in my opinion,” she said.